Flowers are a jewellery mainstay but also a must-have right now.
By Juliet Hutton-Squire & Maia Adams
Flowers are one of the most traditional and long-standing symbols in jewellery design, but in the coming months they are set to have a major impact on current trends as blooms start to boom. Juliet Hutton-Squire and Maia Adams of Adorn Insight report on the power of flowers.
In the pantheon of jewellery motifs, the flower is without question one of the greats.
Evidence shows that as far back as the 13th century BC, flowers captured in amber were worn for adornment, and the Ancient Greeks were making flower-shaped beads by joining flat pieces of gold and filling the cavity with sand.
Since ancient times floral iterations have been as varied as they have been widespread. The Ancient Egyptian Flower of Life was composed of multiple overlapping arches, flower brooches set with precious stones were a Baroque jewellery staple and the scrolling curlicues of Art Nouveau and Jugendstijl styles lent themselves perfectly to elaborate floral depictions. Even in the 1960s, a time of revolution and newness, Mod fashion embraced bold enamelled floral jewellery.
Fast forward to the present day and we see that our love affair with the flower is reflected not just in jewellery but in design at large, with an abundance of ideas to suit every pocket and taste.
But to what can we attribute this enduring fascination? At its most literal level perhaps it is a way to keep nature with us. From living walls – such as the one that covers Belgian fashion designer Anne Demeulemmester’s Seoul boutique – to floral homewares, via all manner of blooms and blossoms on the catwalks, greenery soothes our increasingly urbanised lives.
On an esoteric level the flower’s multi-faceted symbolism has a lot to answer for. As visual shorthand for sentiments and beliefs, not only are flowers used to mark life’s significant milestones from birth to death, they can be used to denote love, virtue, passion, innocence, eroticism and decadence.
In Western culture, perhaps the greatest exponents of this were the Victorians who favoured jewellery loaded with hidden meaning that could be read in combinations of flowers such as bluebells for constancy and daffodils for unrequited love.
Last but not least, the flower’s enduring appeal is down to its attractiveness and versatility, which remain as strong today as they ever have. From wooden inlays and precious gems to carved stones and moulded metal, the floral motif offers a wealth of potential to the imaginative jeweller.
With the first blush of spring just around the corner, and a maximalist mood informing many of the forthcoming season’s print- and colour-packed collections, it comes as no surprise that high fashion jewellers have sought to boost their floral jewellery offerings.
In what must surely be a future collector’s piece, Sergio Rossi has conceived a stunning lily choker that sets lush green leaves writhing around the neck, holding in place a life-size enamel bloom.
Fellow Italian Roberto Cavalli tows a similar line, albeit with a more cartoonish approach, creating necklaces and rings sporting magnolias in various stages of opening. By embellishing the tip of each petal with dew drop-like white crystals, Cavalli successfully tempers a bold silhouette with dainty detail.
Adopting an old school stance, Oscar de la Renta channels an ongoing interest in Byzantine aesthetics with cut-out gold metal clip earrings, the floral details of which are decked out with coral-, turquoise- and garnet-coloured cabochons.
Putting the fun into floral, Rodrigo Otazu has created a pretty bangle that recalls 1950s costume jewellery with its burst of orange petals and aurora borealis Swarovski centerpiece.
In complete contrast, Jen Kao’s futuristic gold earrings erupt with lushly plump, spiky-tipped forms, the origins of which are hard to pin down but that hint at tropical succulents.
Adding to the appeal of floral jewels is that whilst undeniably bold, they are versatile too, working equally well with a dressed-up nighttime look or a casual daytime style.
For some, a literal approach to the delights of the floral world is where design is at right now. Drawing inspiration from nature’s bounty – in this case a close up of the flower’s botanical structure – this approach provides plenty of opportunity for excitement and visual appeal. Sprays, bouquets, single stem or clusters, flowers in all their glory, afford the jewellery world the opportunity to immortalise and capture the beauty of the blossoming bud.
This season, both the pret-a-porter and couture fashion fraternities have picked the rose as their bloom of choice. Prada’s costume jewellery collection – including parures of dazzling drop earrings and statement neckpieces – features carved roses in hues of dusty pink, mint green, peachy pink and scarlet.
Meanwhile Christian Dior’s extraordinary Le Bal des Roses collection, masterminded by creative director Victoire de Castellane, reflects an imaginary journey on which roses play characters on their way to a ball.
Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweller Piaget – whose love of roses has led it to grow an eponymous bubblegum pink rose – re-interprets the Piaget rose in pieces such as the gem-set Limelight Jazz earrings from its Magic Gardens collection.
This isn’t to say that other blooms don’t get a look in. Audrey Savransky of Belgian brand AS29 has created an amethyst flower ring that captures the daintiness of a violet with stone-encrusted petals set around a centre stone in a deeper hue. In contrast, Italian jewellery brand, Forzieri’s Rosato marigold ring boasts black glossy enamel petals on 18ct gold settings with diamond-studded stamens protruding provocatively from its glistening petioles.
While the intricacies of realism may inspire some, opportunities also exist for those who prefer a signature collection that only hints at some floral origin. Yves Saint Laurent’s Arty Collection is a great example of this approach. Layered forms stack up like brightly coloured lily pads in a stylised rendition of Op Art florals that merely hint at the design’s origin.
New York-based Flutter NYC reflects designer Jill Golden’s love of travel and jewellery. Inspired by different places around the world, Golden’s jewellery often takes on a floral theme with a geometric edge that adds to the visual impact of her work.
Based on the humble daisy, Gilbert Halaby’s Flower Cuff presents spirograph-style blooms as a framed orbit of petal overlays for which high shine and textured metallic detailing are spun together to form a seemingly weightless three-dimensional structure.
Showing that man made fabrics can work well too, Marni’s floral necklace showcases a cluster of acetate cutouts in striking combinations of red and black nestled in between open link black chain in a striking rendition that communicates that the flower has power, no matter how playful.
This article was taken from the March 2012 issue of Professional Jeweller. To view a digital version of this issue online click here.